For Them We Mourn

When he died, she died. When she died, they died. When they died, we died. We are all one family, a family of mourners.

He died while being stabbed by an Arab knife while waiting for a bus at a nearby bus stop. Yitgadal.

She died when news of his tragic death reached her. V’yitkadash.

When they died, we were at a great loss. Shmai.

When we heard the news on the nightly Arutz 2, we made a tear in our garments and we wept. Raba.

We, the household of Israel, the citizens of Israel, have become daily mourners. Rabbinic Judaism does not require of us to observe the laws and customs of mourning for people unrelated to us by blood.

But those innocents who meet death daily at the hand or car of a terrorist are related to us in spirit, and thus we mourn for them. They are our loss.

We are also at a loss of understanding? Who can explain wanton murders to us? Why does the WHY have no answers?

The wounded, the maimed, the 18-month-old child who lost a leg, they are thankfully still with us and with time and medical skills they will survive.

In Babylon, we hung our harps upon the willow branches when we remembered beloved Zion. Alas, we have no harps and no willow trees under whose shade we could sit and mourn. The strings on Jerusalem’s Bridge of Strings will have to play a solemn dirge for us, a melody or hymn of love for those who have perished and for those who have survived. A sad tune, yet one which gives us, their families and friends, renewed strength and hope and the ability to go on building in our land,
building everywhere within our borders, building from north to south and from east to west so that the work of our hands may be visible to all who pass by.

We are in many ways a strange country. Our values differ from those of larger countries, our laws and statutes are a jumbled mass of biblical law, rabbinic law, Ottoman law, British law, laws that we obey and laws that we disobey. But we are not strangers to one another. We are all one family. And when one suffers, all of us suffer. When one mourns, the nation also mourns.

Many countries, those quite near to us and those far from us have death penalties in their law codes. Regrettably, we do not. I say regrettably because in my heart I know that there is justification for ending the life of one who has taken away a life. Parents remain without children, husbands without wives and wives without husbands. And orphans. O dear God, so many orphans. Look after them. Care for them. Help them to grow into fine adults who will contribute to the welfare of our national society.

I would like to see the day when there is not a single incident of a terrorist act reported in our printed media or broadcast on our radios and television. It would be a day to herald the coming of the messiah. Has such a day ever been? Will such a day ever be?

The story is told of God who wanted to give Moses a reward for his leadership and loyalty. He asked Moses what reward he would like to receive. And as we all know from the Bible and midrash, Moses had a speech impediment. He was a stutterer. And so he replied to God, “for my-my-myself I want noth-noth-noth-ing but for my pe-pee-ple I want the land of Can—Can— Can—…” And God replied, “Yes Moses. I understand. You want the land of Canada”.

How easy our lives would have been if God had only let Moses finish speaking his request. But He did not. And so He gave us the land of Canaan which became the land of Israel with the stipulation that we would destroy the idolators in the land, smash their idols of clay and wood, and drive their worshippers far away from the land of Promise which He, in His Divine Wisdom, had bequeathed only to us.

Today I think there are no idolators in our land. There are only three monotheistic peoples who dwell in it. Many of them cause us sorrow and grief. Many of them take pleasure in our deaths. But while our dead can not rise up from their graves to defend themselves, it is we, the sons and daughters of Israel, who must defend their honor and our lives.

No harps with strings to pluck. No melodies of gladness nor of sadness. No willow branches whose leaves would embrace us and comfort us.

And still, as one family, we mourn for those who died needlessly. “Oseh shalom bimromav, Hu yaaseh shalom, aleinu v’al kol Yisrael v’imru: Amen.”

May He who makes Peace in the heavens above make peace for us and for all Israel, and let us together say: Amen.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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